Rouen's strategically important location on the Seine has subjected it to turbulent battles throughout its history.
Rotomagus, the Roman name for Rouen, was a major port and strategic axis for the Romans due to its strength for both sea and river trade and access.
Its wide and undulating meanders cut in swathes across the countryside and are a defining feature of both this part of Normandy and also Rouen itself.
The characteristics of the Seine in Normandy are very different to those seen upstream: here it is a wide and deep river, flowing in broad meanders across the landscape.
This, combined with Rouen’s proximity to the coast, makes it a significant sea port and river port, and it is the physical limit of navigation on the Seine for sea-going vessels.
The river has long been managed and dredged to ensure that it remains clear enough to provide safe passage for vessels and maintain this economically and physically important depth.
It is therefore no surprise that a thriving and significant settlement was a desirable prize for invading Vikings, who made numerous attempts to take the town before it was eventually captured in 841, and mostly destroyed.
The land was ceded to Rollo, leader of the Northmen (Normanni) Vikings, who gave their name to the land that became the Duchy of Normandy with Rouen as its capital.
The Norse-speaking Normanni settlers spread out across the Duchy, quickly adapted to the “local” cultures, developing a new Norman language based on the regional “langue d'oïl”, a forerunner to modern French.
The Normanni also renounced paganism and converted to Christianity, the dominant religion across the region, and set about building the first basis of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen.
It was Rollo’s great-great-grandson, William I the Conqueror, who added England to the Duchy of Normandy during the Norman Conquest of 1066.